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Aviation program at ASU reaches new heights

December 20, 2012

The College of Technology and Innovation (CTI) is an academic setting in which ideals of collaboration and innovation are celebrated within all concentrations. That initiative is no different for the aviation program, which announced this summer its partnership with ATP Flight School and is now offering a pathways program that will guarantee qualified students an interview with Delta or Express Jet Airlines.

Students in aviation

For most students, college is a time of exploration and self-discovery where decisions are made about future career plans. For Nathan Orta, however, he knew from a young age what career he wanted to pursue.

“My whole life has been aviation,” he said. “When it came down to choosing a major, I didn’t need to make a decision; I already knew that going into aviation was for me.”

Orta, a dual air traffic management and professional flight major at CTI, grew up in Puerto Rico. He came from a family of aviation enthusiasts, including a father who spent his weekends flying the two of them to various destinations and aunts and uncles who worked for many airports and airlines.

Orta recalls when he and his father would fly to Florida for the weekend and his father would let him talk to air traffic controllers.

“When you get exposure like that at a young age, you become naturally passionate about it,” he said.

As Orta’s love for aviation grew, so did his love for academics and extracurricular activities. In high school, Orta received various academic awards and scored high on college entrance exams. He even won Puerto Rico’s Pepsi Tournament, a competition for the country’s most talented bowlers.

When it came down to choosing the school where he would spend the next four years of his life, the choice was easy.

“I looked at various aviation programs around the United States, but the one at ASU was really the only one that was comprehensive,” he said. “It’s an applied curriculum where I can physically learn how things work rather than sit in a theoretical class and never get any hands-on experience.”

Unlike Orta, Clint Carr’s interest in aviation began later in life. In high school, Carr considered pursuing a career as a pilot but quickly reasoned away from it because of the cost and time commitment necessary to train.

“I looked into the air traffic control major and thought that this is for me,” Carr said. “It’s an interesting job where I can go to work and come home the same day.”

Carr was attracted to the many labs and simulators CTI has made available to students.

“It’s something all students should consider when they are applying to various aviation programs. Ask yourself, ‘Does this college have any simulators?’ If it doesn’t, you will fall behind,” he said. “These labs give CTI students an advantage over many other schools that do not have simulators.”

Directly across the street from the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, ASU’s Polytechnic campus is home to the Simulator Building, a facility that houses state-of-the-art technology but honors the campus’ past. Lining the halls of the Simulator Building are several decade-old photographs of pilots training at the once active Williams Air Force Base. Display cases hold antique engine parts and Air Force memorabilia next to current ASU mementos. Today, aviation students can look at these keepsakes and be reminded of a tradition of excellence that is continued throughout CTI’s aviation program.

The aviation program is comprised of three degrees: air traffic management, aeronautical management technology and professional flight. At the center of the program is a core of required classes that encompass aspects of all majors. Mary Niemczyk, aviation program chair, considers the core classes to be comprehensive, teaching students about all areas of aviation.

“All students, regardless of their major, gain experience and knowledge in the design, management, operation and leadership of tomorrow’s safe and efficient aviation system,” she said. “We feel that this fulfills CTI’s goals of producing well-rounded students with a vast knowledge in aviation.”

Since its inception, the aviation program has undergone several changes to reflect current technology trends. Because aviation training is so dependent on simulated learning, the program has gone to great lengths to ensure the best possible simulation technology for students. All students going through the program will receive hands-on experience in one of many simulation labs.

Flight simulators are used for all levels of training and students can expect exposure to this technology as early as their freshman year. Along with ASU’s own simulators, the Simulator Building is home to several multi-million dollar flight simulators that seasoned pilots from around the world come to train on.

New air traffic control simulation labs were installed in 2011 and aviation students have 24/7 access to the labs using their Sun card as a key. The software that students use in these labs are identical to what is used at the professional level.

Also housed in the Simulator Building 
is a 315-degree “life-size” display that simulates an actual air traffic control tower. Niemczyk says that it is this technology that makes the program an outstanding one.

In the next few months, the Simulator Building will experience some cosmetic renovations that include a contemporary lounge area for students to gather, study or relax. The area will feature monitors with flight times and other relevant information. Because the lounge will be located next to flight simulators used by industry professionals, students will have the opportunity to network with experts in their field.

In addition, ASU is also just one of three universities in the nation to have a high altitude chamber lab and offer training courses related to recognition, treatment and prevention of common aviation illnesses and conditions.

For prospective students considering
a career in aviation, Orta says CTI’s aviation program is the perfect culmination of a relaxed campus atmosphere, a comprehensive curriculum, and a fun environment that fosters creativity and innovation.

“The instructors really do help CTI students achieve their personal, academic and career goals,” he said. “You won’t find a program that is more hands-on than this one.”

Partnership with ATP

The CTI aviation program announced 
in July that ATP Flight School would become its newest flight partner. Although classroom training takes place on the ASU Polytechnic campus, official flight training must be done with a certified flight school provider, and faculty of the program determined ATP to be the perfect choice.

Located less than a quarter mile from the Polytechnic campus and the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, ATP provides state-of-the-art facilities where students can train using several types of aircraft, use flight simulators and connect with pilots and other industry professionals using the facilities. ATP also provided the program with brand new aircraft exclusive for aviation students’ use. To show their enthusiasm in working with ASU, planes were specially designed to include the ASU logo and pitchfork on the tails and sides of the aircraft.

Compared to other programs around the nation, ATP and ASU offer tuition rates that are considerably lower than those found
 in other programs. The faculty expects that this, along with the industry need for future aviation professionals, will become a determining factor for students who are considering CTI’s aviation program.

ASU Express Jet / Delta Airlines Pathways Program

In addition to CTI’s partnership with 
ATP, the aviation program announced
 a collaboration with Express Jet and 
Delta Airlines to implement a pathways program called AP3. In this effort, aviation students will begin a pilot screening process in their freshman and sophomore years that will prepare them for and guarantee an interview for jobs as first officers with Express Jet. Successfully meeting several outlined guidelines also will guarantee students an interview for a position as a pilot with Delta Airlines.

CTI is just one of five colleges in the nation to be selected to participate in the AP3 program. Officials have indicated that selection is based off of an established track record of producing top-quality students, and as such CTI’s aviation program was selected because of their consistency as a reliable source of high-caliber pilots.

James Anderson, a lecturer in the aviation program, said that the need for pilots 
is growing exponentially. After a period 
of slow personnel growth, the industry is faced with such factors as a wave of pilot retirements, changing FAA rules that demand a need for more pilots, an increase in international travel routes, and an improving U.S. economy.

“There is a huge need for pilots now, and that need will only become greater,” he said. “Several airlines put our students at a higher standard because they know how innovative and adaptive CTI students are.”

Anderson says he hopes that enrollment will increase once more students hear about the pathways program and the increasing need for pilots.

Written by Sydney B. Donaldson, College of Technology and Innovation